Father's Story

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On July 23, 1991, Milwaukee chemist Lionel Dahmer discovered - along with the rest of the world - that his son Jeffrey was a murderer who, over a period of many years, had carried out some of the most ghastly crimes ever committed in the United States. These crimes were so grisly that for a time Dahmer entered a world of complete denial - first convinced that Jeff was innocent, then later that he had been no more than the tool of some other, far more evil human being. But as the evidence accumulated, it became ...
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1994 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 255 p. Audience: General/trade.

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On July 23, 1991, Milwaukee chemist Lionel Dahmer discovered - along with the rest of the world - that his son Jeffrey was a murderer who, over a period of many years, had carried out some of the most ghastly crimes ever committed in the United States. These crimes were so grisly that for a time Dahmer entered a world of complete denial - first convinced that Jeff was innocent, then later that he had been no more than the tool of some other, far more evil human being. But as the evidence accumulated, it became clear that Jeffrey Dahmer had acted alone and that the "evil" that had compelled him was far more disturbing than any Lionel Dahmer might have imagined. As the trial progressed, and the crimes of his son were graphically detailed, Lionel Dahmer began to place himself in the dock beside his son. In the torturous weeks following Jeff's conviction, he continued descent toward that harrowing point at which the line of his own life inevitably intersected with his son's. In doing so, he completed the darkest journey ever made by a stricken father - one that ultimately led one painful step at a time from his initial denial to a final admission of shattering intensity. A Father's Story cannot claim to have discovered the ultimate solution to the enigma of either the criminal or his deeds. It is, in fact, not the story of Jeffrey Dahmer at all, but of a father who, by slow, incremental degrees, came to realize the saddest truth that any parent may ever know: that following some unknowable process, his child had somewhere crossed the line that divides the human from the monstrous. This memoir is not a refutation of charges, an attempt to change the record. It is both a touching family memoir and a haunting confession - the searing account of a man who never relented in his effort to fathom the deepest quarters of his son's affliction, even as they pointed to his own. It is an important document on the nature of fatherhood, the origins of madness, and the role of ki
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If readers are expecting sensational revelations from this earnest memoir by the father of mass-murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, they will be disappointed. We are instead given a glimpse into the macabre life of one of the most demented killers in the nation's history, a man who kept a full human skeleton in his closet. Jeffrey was born in Milwaukee in 1960 after his mother had endured a very difficult pregnancy (after giving birth to another son, she would spend time in a mental institution). Jeffrey seemed like any other child; it was only as he grew older that he began to withdraw. His father sees many similarities between himself and his son: both are emotionally distant, fear abandonment, like to control people and feel inadequate. The author, a chemist, writes that he was so involved with his work that he never noticed that Jeffrey, even in high school, was an alcoholic. Dahmer goes on to recite his son's litany of failure: dropping out of college after only one semester; being kicked out of the army for his alcoholism; his interest in devil worship and seances. The strongest statement in the book is Dahmer's denial of an allegation made by a former male lover of Jeffrey's that he sexually abused his son as a teenager. A book for criminologists, psychiatrists and the ghoulish. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Although he knew his son Jeffrey was disturbed, the author, like most parents, hoped he was ``just a blink away from redemption.'' Thus, he was as horrified as others when Jeffrey's gruesome serial murders of young men came to light. (See Anne E. Schwartz's The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough , LJ 4/15/92). In this brief, honest book, Dahmer, a research chemist, searches for answers to the question of how his son became a monster. In retrospect, there are some clues--Dahmer even speculates that he is ``a man whose son was perhaps only the deeper, darker shadow of himself.'' While no one, not even his father, can ever really know what produces a Jeffrey Dahmer, this is brave, heart-wrenching testimony. The author's unique point of view reminds us that the lives a murderer ruins include those who loved him most. Recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/93.-- Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
The father of convicted serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer writes eloquently of himself and his son. He chronicles Jeffrey's life, his crimes, and his apprehension and trial; but more importantly, he shares his own ruminations about Jeffrey's psychology and his own. No scholarly paraphernalia. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688121563
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 255

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2004

    Excellent read

    Lionel Dahmer's account of the events surrounding the evolution of his son's decent into madness. This book serves not as a voyeuristic portrayal of one of the most sensational crime stories in recent times, but rather as a father's sensitive and thoughtful attempt to understand the mind of Jeff Dahmer. I was most impressed by the explanation of the possible psychological effects of the rather turmoiled environment in which Jeff was raised, seen as a contributing factor, along with alcoholism, control issues, and possible 'genetic mutations', that triggered his compulsions to commit these horrible crimes. This book was difficult to put down. I really appreciated Lionel Dahmer's attention to detail and analytical approach in his attempt to understand what were surely very troubling and emotional issues for him and his family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2011

    A Father's Story - ** Possible SPOILERS **

    I highly recommend this book. I can personally relate to Mr. (Lionel) Dahmer's fate in some ways, as I'm sure many others can (even though his son's outcome was much worse than my stepson's.) I feel for Shari (Jeff''s stepmother) - a lot of things she went through (being the stepmom, doing her best to help Jeff and support his father) are familiar to me.

    This is very difficult subject matter - finding out your son is responsible for the deaths of so many and then trying to search for answers as to why, how, and the self-blame.

    Mr. Dahmer tells a tragic story of love and loss which, I think, should be a warning to us all. It is enlightening because when one goes down a path of destruction, I think all family members and friends wonder "Could I have, should I have, seen what was possibly coming, could I have prevented it, done something different to change this terrible outcome?" Of course, the answer is we'll never know.

    That "The Dahmer's" have now been saddled with the crimes committed by Jeffrey for the rest of their lives is unfortunate. It seems Lionel did everything he could think of (at the time) to help his son, a son who was unwilling or incapable of taking advantage of everything his father tried to do to help him, all the while dealing with his own distress - with his failed marriage, elderly mother, job, etc.

    ** SPOILER? ** I sometimes wondered where Jeff''s brother, David, was during all this turmoil. Did Lionel leave Jeff's brother, David's, participation or non-participation in Jeff's fate out of this book on purpose or was it at David's request? Then again, this is Lionel's (A Father's) story.

    ** SPOILER ** I am left with a few questions, too. I wonder where and how Jeff got all these drugs that he used to try to control his victims, chemicals, etc. used to "dispose" of them, ... He was making around $9.00 an hour, had to pay for his apartment, the trips to bars, alchohol... I wonder what happened to the police officer's who sent a young boy (Konerak Sinthasmphone) back to Jeff's apartment (only to be killed a few hours later.) I remember when that happened, the comment they made over their radios that they had ("sent the drunk/high homo back to his gay boyfriend" - something to that affect), the outrage after Jeff was caught, the race card being played (with good reason?), the officer's being punished in some way. There seemed to have been plenty of times when Jeff should have been "caught" (which you will see as you read this book) by cops, neighbors, family members (all the way back to a very close call when he committed his first murder.) But I have seen the same thing when reading about other killers - John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, BTK, and on and on.

    ** SPOILER? ** This book was published in 1994, prior to Jeff meeting his end on November 28, 1994. I recently read another book, "There But For the Grace of God: Survivors of the 20th Century's Infamous Serial Killers" - HORRIBLE book, waste of time, but it included in an appendix a transcript of a hearing between Jeff's mother's attorneys and his father regarding the disposition of Jeff''s brain after his death (his mother wanting Jeff's brain turned over for scientific study, his father on the other side, trying to at least fulfill Jeff's wishes in his will.) Dad still trying to protect his son and honor his wishes, even after his son's tragic death. Very sad.

    If you enjoy this boo

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2004


    Though A Father¿s Story if full of five star information, it was written by a man whose own ignorance in child rearing was too often displayed. I do however, believe it is a must read for anybody who finds Jeffrey Dahmer intriguing. Which brings me to the conclusion of a four star rating.

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